If you have yet to visit TURF, the art pavilion created by IDADA (the

Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association) at

If you have yet to visit TURF,

the art pavilion created by the Indianapolis

Downtown Artists and Dealers Association

at the old city hall building on

Alabama Street, stop procrastinating. Go!


are plenty of things to love about TURF. But, first of all, credit is due Mark


and the IDADA team responsible for

coming up with the TURF concept and then realizing it so fully. If, in some

cockamamie way, we have the Super


to thank for this energizing bit of civic inspiration, so be it.

Rarely has the pursuit of pigskin been put to better use.


on your vintage, you may know the old city hall building as the former Indiana

State Museum

. I remember going there on Saturdays with my son. We were

hypnotized by the graceful to-and-fro of the Foucault Pendulum, awed by the

size of Pacer Rik Smits' feet imprinted on the museum floor and thrilled (in a

campy way) by the life-size diorama of prehistoric hunters closing in on a

wooly mammoth, haplessly wallowing in a frigid swamp.


the State Museum decamped for new, swankier quarters in White

River State Park

. The old city hall was abandoned. Then, when the Central

Library underwent its expansion, library services found a temporary home there.


in 1910, the old city hall has the feel of a four-story mausoleum. It's built

of limestone and fitted with Roman Doric columns. Step into the building's

great rotunda and you're almost guaranteed to say, "They don't make 'em like this anymore!"


2008, when the library left for its new and improved digs, old city hall has

stood empty, a great, gray pile in need of a little love. In a city that has

thoughtlessly demolished a large portion of its historic architecture over the

years, this has been a cause for concern. Surely some use could be found for

this stately antique.


is where IDADA comes in. As reported by Scott Shoger in NUVO's Jan. 11

issue, it was Jason


who had the idea of using the old city

hall for a large-scale exhibition of installation art to coincide with the

Super Bowl. When the IDADA team actually toured the building, they knew they'd

found the perfect site.


not exactly sure why, but I know that nothing serves contemporary art so well

as an historic setting. Put contemporary work in a bright, white modern box and

it hums. But when you find it in a place that was built long ago, by people

whose only link to present tastes and concerns was their sense of ambition, new

art is so vivid it practically snaps when you look at it.


the way the

TURF show

feels. This is due, of course, to the fact that the works on view

are almost always interesting and, in many cases, downright extraordinary.

Every one of the 23 participating artists/groups has a room of their own, and

the batting average of mind-blowing works by such practitioners as Greg Hull, Artur Silva, Jeff


, Casey


, AnilaAgha, and Lobyn Hamilton is all-star caliber.


the afternoon we visited, there was a steady stream of visitors, including many

families. As we explored the galleries on the first and second floors and

checked out the Skyline Club cafŽ, it was hard not to be overcome by how

pleasurable it was to finally have an authoritative art center downtown.

Downtown already has a number of galleries and the Artsgarden. But none of

these have the heft and scope, the sense of destination that TURF brings.


is the most palpable reminder yet that our downtown has many things, but one

asset it sorely lacks is a truly public cultural center, a place where citizens

of all ages and backgrounds can go for arts and cultural experiences. While

TURF is all about the experiential qualities of the visual arts, it's not hard

to imagine the old city hall being able to accommodate a range of activities

that might include small ensemble chamber music performances, film screenings,

and live black box-style theater, not to mention rehearsal and public meeting



while we're at it, why not commission Kipp Normand, whose "Fanfare for Mayor Charles Bookwalter" installation, recalling the politician

whose vision led to creation of the city hall building is a TURF highlight, to

create a permanent exhibit for visitors on the history and folklore of Indianapolis?


center like this would provide the burgeoning numbers of downtown residents and

other citizens with a variety of free cultural opportunities that would, in

turn, spark greater synergies with such existing arts resources as the Indianapolis

Symphony Orchestra

, the Indianapolis

Repertory Theatre

and Cabaret

at the Columbia Club

. It would also create a dynamic focus of activity

linking downtown with the Mass




using the old city hall for creation of a downtown cultural center would

revitalize an important part of the city's architectural and civic history. I

can't think of a more solid cornerstone upon which to imagine what comes next

for Indianapolis.


runs through Feb. 5 and is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Admission is



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